Posts from February 2016

Ever Use Klister? Here's How!
Posted February 26, 2016

OK, It's time to ski. Maybe it's the 25K Classic in the Yellowstone Rendezvous Race like the photo below. Or maybe you just want to enjoy a classic tour. Ah but the temperature is warm - well above freezing - and the snow is wet. What to do?

You could choose a no-wax ski like the Fischer RCS Crowns that I talked about in an earlier post. The problem with crown skis is that they have a difficult time gripping the hard pack snow that you might encounter on the trail. You could also try one of the new "skin" skis like the Fischer Twin Skin. These skis have a mohair section in the base that provides grip in difficult conditions. The problem with skin skis is they tend to be heavier that traditional skis. And both skin skis and crown base skis usually glide slower than a well waxed classic ski.

The solution to warm wet and/or frozen hard pack snow is to use a klister for grip. Klisters are liquid at room temperature and come in tubes like toothpaste. Don't kid yourself though, klisters are nothing like toothpase. They are sticky, guey substances that will provide wonderful grip and glide but they require special handling to apply and remove.

Success in using klisters is starting with a clean, dry, and warm grip zone and work in a warm wax room. For longer outings and races, especially when the snow is abrasive, I recommend using a binder to help the klister adhere to the ski. In the Birkie last Saturday I used Swix KR20 Green Base klister. The base klister is applied very thin. Just enough to cover the base. Use a warm iron to heat the base klister and the ski base. Once the base klister is ironed in wipe off any excess with a piece of Fiberlene to leave a smooth this application. Then let the ski cool.

After the ski has cooled apply the top klister. Again be sure to keep it thin. Apply the top klister in daps on both sides of the groove while keeping the tube of klister almost verticle. This allows you to keep the tip of the tube on the ski while you apply thin dabs. Holding the tube at a shallow angle allows too much klister to ooze onto the ski base.

There are many different types of top klister. The one you choose depends on temperature and snow condition just like hard waxes. But in warm wet conditions you can limit your choice to one of the Universal klisters. These work over a wide range of temperatures from just below freezing to well above. In the photos I'm applying Ski-Go HF Universal klister. But every brand of wax will have a universal type klister.

After you have applied the dabs of klister it is necessary to smooth it out to completely cover the base klister applied earlier. The easiest way to do this is to use a hair dryer to warm the top klister without over heating the previously applied base klister. At left above I'm starting to smooth the klister. You can see the dabs along each side of the groove. The best tool I've found to smooth the klister is a thumb. The thumb provides instant feedback with respect to smoothness, lumps, etc. In the right photo above you can see how nice the smooth klister appears.

Once the klister is reasonably smooth, leave it alone. Continuing to try and make it perfectly smooth and uniform will only end up with a mess on your ski. Place the skis outside to cool and keep them cool until you start skiing. The application of klister pictured above worked perfectly for 56 kilometers of my Birkie last Saturday. Conditions varies from relatively dry corn snow to wet sloppy slush. Using klister when conditons are right for klisters will provide great grip and glide. Your friends will also be amazed at your waxing prowess.

Winter seems to be leaving my part of Montana early this year. I'll be skiing as long as the snow lasts and maybe enjoy some snowshoing too. But this will be my last post on Ralph's Blog for this season. I hope you have enjoyed my winter as much as I have. Oh, and if you want to sign up for next years Birkie, registration opens on May 2nd. Register early because the race fills quickly.

ONE MORE THING! When you are done skiing be sure to remove that klister. If you don't you'll be sorry!

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A Birkie Poster
Posted February 24, 2016

I'm still pumped from completing my 37th Birkie in fairly trying wet snow conditions. The little bit of drizzle made it more interesting. Elite Cartography LLC helped me put together this poster commenorating the day.

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Birkie Day
Posted February 21, 2016

Well the big day finally arrived. It's Birkie Day! I was fortunate to win a parking pass that allowed us to drive right up to the start area. It would only be short walk to the start.

Steve and I took the opportunity to test our klister application to make sure we had good grip on the trail. My skis seemed perfect with plenty of glide and good grip. Steve decided he need a little extra red klister in the center of his wax pocket.

Then it was just hanging out in the car getting mentally ready to ski 56 km (35 miles). And hoping all would go well.

Before long it was time to head for the start and get a photo of our group.

I'm on the left wearing my Eagle River Nordic Ski School colors. My bib is bright yellow signifying that I have skied 30 or more Birkies. Why didn't anyone point out to me that my bib was messed before we took the photos? Kyle Bantz is in the center. The gray bib color denotes a wave 6 start and the yellow highlight around her number tells everyone she is skiing the 26 km Korteloppet ski race. On the right is Steve Bantz. His purple bib is given to skiers skiing 20-29 Birkies.

Before long I entered the start pen for Wave 5 Claasic skiers. The gun sounded and I was off on my 56 km ski. I'd really love to show some photos on the course but I have never taken the opportunity to stop and take pictures. I am always focused on skiing instead. In my post next Thursday I'll try to describe the course and my adventure on the trail.

The day was warm. Much warmer than most skiing days in my winter. There was also a little rain and drizzle. But my klister application worked very well and I had good grip for most of the race. A little over 6 hours after the start I was skiing toward the finish line on Main Street.

At the finish a volunteer helped remove my skis and another stapled on my 37 year pin. I am definitely in a fairly select group of Birkie skiers. only about 75 people out of many thousands who have skied the Birkie have completed at least 37 races. I am very proud of the longevity of this accomplishment.

I'm toasting the end of another Birkie and a great day of skiing with a well deserved bottle of chocolate milk. It was a tough ski in the wet and warm conditions. The slush on the lake was kind of a "coup de gras." But I still look pretty good after skiing 56 kilometers (35 miles), eh?

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It Will Be a Waxing Challenge for this Year's Birkie
Posted February 19, 2016

I'll be skiing Classic style in this year's Birkie. This requires that my skis grip the snow well to allow me to ascend the many, many big hills on the 55 kilometer course. When the snow is cold, dry and powder waxing skis for grip is fairly simple. Crayon on a hard wax, cork it in and you're good to go. This year the weather has thrown Classic skiers a curve ball. The weather during the run up to the race has gotten quite warm and we had rain in Hayward today (Friday). The weather story follows:

Friday: Rain, possibly mixed with sleet, becoming all rain after noon. Some thunder is also possible. High near 41. Breezy, with a south wind 10 to 15 mph becoming west in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 25 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. Little or no sleet accumulation expected.

Friday Night: Patchy drizzle before 8pm. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 33. Breezy, with a west wind 10 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph.

Saturday: Mostly cloudy, with a high near 38. West wind 5 to 10 mph, with gusts as high as 15 mph.

Hard wax will not work in warm weather and wet snow. For these conditions the only type of wax that will work is called klister. This is a sticky substance that is a thick liquid a room temperature but it turns to a rubbery sticky material when cooled. It does work but it is tricky to apply and the ar many types of klister to choose from depending on the actual conditions of the snow.

I started thinking I would use Swix Universal and/or Swix Red klisters. But during subsequent testing Friday morning the Swix Universal didn't provide enough grip on the wet snow. Steve discovered an recommendation from Boulder Nordic Systems to use Ski Go HF Universal klister. He tested that later in the morning and found it worked well. So that's what we decided to use.

The first step is to apply a binder that helps the gripping klister adhere to the ski longer. Once the binder is ironed in and smoothed out it is allowed to cool. Next is the application of the gripping klister. We used a hair dryer to warm the ski and our thumbs made a nice tool for smoothing it out.

We didn't have an opportunity to test the final application. Tomorrow's conditions won't be the same as the rainy afternoon we are experiencing today anyway. Check back to see how the klister worked - or didn't!

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We Picked Up Our Birkie Bibs
Posted February 18, 2016 - 5:00 PM

Steve and I spent a couple of hours preparing the glide zones of our skis for Saturday. For those interested in ski prep, we used Toko Low Fluoro Gray ironed into the base, then scraped and brushed. Next we ironed in some Toko High Fluoro Yellow and again scraped and brushed. Finally we added some structure to the glide zones using a rolling tool. The riller produces shallow angled grooves in the ski base to help the ski break the suction when gliding over snow that is wet or has high moisture content.

We are both skiing the race classic style. We will prepare the grip zones of the skis late Friday or early Saturday when we have more confidence in what the actual snow conditions will be like during the race. Presently the forecast calls for a period of above freezing temperatures and some rain. This will impact the snow. What is unknown is the actual temperature on Saturday morning. Will it be above or below freezing? Will it rain on Saturday? Will it snow? Will it rain and snow or snow and rain? Each scenario will impact how we get our skis to gri on the snow.

Steve has pretty much settled on a no-wax type of ski with a fuzzy fabric grip zone. His skis are called Skintecs. I am still undecided. I may use a wax able ski with one or more klisters applied to the grip zone or I may use a no-wax ski with a cut pattern in the base. My choice will depend on one of the above scenarios. Stay tuned!

Here's the view down Main Street in Hayward about 200 meters from the Birkie finish line.

About 400 meters from the finish line I'll cross the bridge over US Hwy 63.

And here's Steve and I with our special Birchlegger bibs. This is Steve's 20th Birkie and he gets to wear the special purple bib. I've skied more than 30 Birkies so my bib is a bright gold color.

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On to Hayward - Two Days Until the Birkie!
Posted February 18, 2016

Finally it's on to Hayward, Wisconsin and the American Birkebeiner ski race. The drive from Eagle River took about three hours. We checked in to the Flatcreek Inn where we would stay for four nights. The Birkie ski trails would close on Wednesday evening so Steve and I decided to get in a little warmup ski before dinner.

The weather had been cold for our entire trip so far. But the forecast for race day is for warm conditions. It might even rain the day before the race. To preserve the snow on the trail the Birkie Foundation did very little grooming this week. Even so the skiing was good. And we are confident that the trail on race day will be as good as possible.

In the photo above I'm skiing past the white tiger on the truck. Can you find it?

After dinner we found the streets of Hayward all lit up and the Birkie trail crew was putting down the snow on Main Street where the race will finish.

I'm definitely getting pumped up for the big day Saturday.

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A Few More Northwoods Scenes
Posted February 18, 2016

We had one more great day of skiing at the ABR Ski Trails before heading to Eagle River Wisconsin.

I headed out to the Otter Slide trail. The views included the Montreal River which forms the boundary between the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Wisconsin.

The Otter Slide trail meanders along the river, cruises over several hills and finally joins the Wolf tracks trail and the Saari trail. The ABR trails are a maze of groomed pathways through the snow. The Saari trail passes several old cabins and homesteads. I skied a solid three hours and covered about 14 miles.

The following day we drove south and east to Eagle River, Wisconsin where we enjoyed a pleasant visit with LaNora Kleerup. The photo below was taken shortly after sunrise on the shore of Butternut Lake in front of LaNora's cabin.

The mornings and evenings were spent socializing but Steve and I got in some good skiing during our stay with LaNora at Minocqua Winter Park. The trails there were well groomed and the scenery was nice also.

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Skiing the ABR Trails in Ironwood, Michigan
Posted February 12, 2016

After skiing the Birkie trail for a couple of days we headed to Ironwood, Michigan where Lake Superior provides a source of moisture and the area is called "Big Snow Country." We were not disappointed. as we approached the big lake the snow started coming down. The Ironwood area was at the tail end of another big snow dump.

Our motel was hidden behind massive snowbanks. In fact every street in town was lined with piles of snow so high that they hid all of the houses. Intersections were especially interesting as one couldn't see past the piles of snow to see if any cars were coming.

Skiing the next couple of days at the ABR Trails was fantastic. Everything was buried in snow except for the groomed ski trails.

The most fun was skiing through the big trees in Norrie Park.

Another big cold front moved in today bringing more snow. Skiing was a little challenging today but if the snow lets up and the groomers work their magic Saturday should be really fun.

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Made it to Wisconsin
Posted February 7, 2016

After a fine steak dinner with wine I enjoyed sleeping in my bed on Amtrak's Empire Builder. I arrived in Saint Paul MN a little ahead of schedule Sunday morning. Steve and Juliane Bantz met me at the station. We drove to Hayward WI and skied 16 km on the Birkie trail. A nice day!

Looking along the length of the Empire Builder as it pulls out of Minot ND.

My roomette with the bed made up and ready for me to get a good nights sleep.

Skiing the Birkie trail.

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Only 16 Days Until the Birkie
Posted February 4, 2016

The American Birkebeiner ski race in northwest Wisconsin is Saturday February 20 this year. I'll be leaving for Wisconsin plenty early to enjoy skiing on some of the nicest ski trails in America. I will try to posts every few days beginning with my departure on Amtrak this coming Saturday and continuing through my return home on February 22. BE sure to check this site often for updates. If you happen to be skiing in NW Wisconsin the next two weeks and see me on the trail be sure to say hi!

For those not familiar with the Birkie heres some info. The Birkie is a cross country ski marathon race that attracts over 10,000 participants. The start is near the small town of Cable, WI. The course winds for miles and miles through the hills heading for the finish on Main Street in downtown Hayward. Classic skiers ski a separate course for the first half of the course to alleviate over crowding. Skate skiers and classic skiers merge and ski together on the second half of the course. Classic skiers will ski about 56 kilometers (35 miles) and skate skiers 52K. The terrain is hilly. The total climb is about 5,000 feet and the total descent is a little more than that. After winding our way through the woods and over the big hills the course reaches Lake Hayward. It's a flat 3K across the lake and into Hayward. One more "hill" is the bridge where skiers cross over US Hwy 63. From there it's a slight uphill on Main Street to the finish.

There are many posts from previous Birkies linked on the The Archives page.


While skiing in Montana has been fantastic this year, I haven't missed a Birkie since 1979. Looking back on my First Birkie it's quite a story. This year will be my 37th consecutive Birkie. Wish me luck for another fun race.

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